7th March 2023
I came to the UK with my family in 1999 in the back of a refrigerated lorry after fleeing Taliban threats. Now, my family and I have dedicated our lives to giving back to the country through public service and charity. Since journeys through cargo trucks have become more and more tightly controlled, many more people now cross the channel on boats. If the policy announced today was implemented my family would have arrived in the UK by small boat crossing and on arrival we could have been imprisoned and deported.
The government has claimed that reducing small boat crossings will allow them to open up resettlement schemes. This statement is illogical and untrue as we know that resettlement schemes prevent people from making dangerous crossings. Moreover, the situation for Afghan refugees highlights the insincerity of this claim. It is clear that there is no will on the part of government to effectively implement existing schemes such as the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS). For this reason, desperate Afghans have lost hope in the UK’s resettlement schemes and are seeking to come to the UK in dangerous boat crossings.
In recent days at least 100 asylum seekers, including 60 Afghans, are tragically thought to have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Italy as they tried to reach Europe. We strongly support efforts to build safe routes for people fleeing persecution and war and believe it is crucial in bringing down the number of small boat crossings. To suggest that deporting asylum seekers will enable the government to open safe routes is simply dishonest.
We believe that the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ is a blatant violation of international refugee law and seeks to conflate refugees with migrants. International law provides for the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, in which a country cannot reject refugees within their borders who are at risk of persecution or fleeing war. The principle is applicable to all, regardless of whether their asylum claim has been processed yet. Refugees cannot by definition be illegal migrants as there are no illegal asylum routes under international law.
At ACAA, we support refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, but also those from countries such as Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Albania and El Salvador. Despite their different life experiences, none of them would have fled their countries and taken often perilous journeys if they did not need to for their own safety.